As a parent, it’s no secret that the school year and the numerous extracurricular activities that accompany it can turn weekdays into a whirlwind. And let’s not forget about the weekends packed with sports events, playdates, and parties you and your kids need to attend. In an ideal scenario, you’d have all the time, energy, and means to prepare nutritious meals for your children every single time. However, we all know that life can get hectic, and that’s when things become a bit challenging, where you choose healthy fast food for kids instead.
During those exceptionally hectic days when you find yourself in a tight spot, fast food might seem like an easy, affordable, and convenient solution to ensure your kids have something to eat. However, it’s important to note that many fast food options are loaded with excessive sodium, saturated fat, and added sugar, which can be detrimental if consumed regularly.
If you’re a busy parent seeking healthier fast-food alternatives for your kids during those time-crunched moments, we’ve got you covered. We reached out to dietitians for their expert recommendations on nutritious options. Keep reading to discover their insights and the top healthy fast food options for kids.
Grilled nuggets from Chick-fil-A
When it comes to Chick-fil-A, their chicken sandwich may steal the spotlight, but you’ll be pleased to know that they offer a variety of healthy and nutrient-packed meal options too as options for fast food for kids.
According to Lauren Manaker, MS, RDN, and author of The First Time Mom’s Pregnancy Cookbook and Fueling Male Fertility, a kids’ meal consisting of grilled chicken nuggets, a side of fruit, and milk is an excellent choice for a nutrient-dense meal that avoids excessive saturated fat. It’s quite uncommon to find a fast-food meal that isn’t fried, but this particular option is perfectly portioned for little tummies.
While the sodium content in the nuggets may be slightly higher, it can still be incorporated into a healthy diet as long as the rest of your day includes relatively lower amounts of this mineral. Remember to balance your sodium intake accordingly.
‘Build your own’ bowls from Chipotle
If you ever find yourself doubting whether Chipotle qualifies as fast food, think again. Suppose you’re willing to step out of your vehicle and enter the restaurant. In that case, you’ll discover that you can swiftly enjoy a nutritious kids’ meal in approximately 15 minutes or even less.
You’ll surely appreciate the “build your own” alternative for children at Chipotle, as it allows for simplicity while incorporating fresh and wholesome ingredients. According to Kacie Barnes, RD, you’ll have the opportunity to select from a variety of options like chicken, brown rice, beans, cheese, lettuce, and guacamole. These are all components that I, as a parent, would be more than pleased to serve my kids regularly! However, it’s worth noting that you should be mindful of the sodium content, which can accumulate rapidly, particularly when including salsas in your meal.
Chicken Nuggets & Apply Slices from McDonald’s
When you come across McDonald’s on a list of healthiest fast food for kids, it might seem a bit surprising. However, with a few modifications, grabbing a Happy Meal can turn into a decent choice when you’re limited in alternatives.
If you opt for the chicken nuggets, consider replacing the fries with apple slices. Additionally, by swapping the soda for a bottle of milk or water, you can ensure that your kids still receive a good amount of protein, fiber, and other beneficial nutrients while keeping their saturated fat intake lower compared to some other fast-food choices. It’s important to note that while this meal isn’t exactly “healthy” enough to be recommended as a regular staple, it serves as a reliable option for those days when you need a quick and affordable meal on the go.
KFC Kid’s Meal
When it comes to Colonel Sanders’ kids’ meals, you’ll be glad to know that they are comparable to Chick-fil-A in terms of calorie content, hovering around 450 calories. As noted by Insider, KFC stands out by offering the widest range of options among the fast-food restaurants examined in their study.
At KFC, you’ll find a variety of choices specifically tailored for kids, ensuring there’s something for everyone’s taste preferences. From grilled chicken options to crispy tenders and flavorful sides, KFC goes above and beyond to provide a diverse menu for young diners.
With a focus on providing a satisfying and balanced meal, KFC understands the importance of maintaining reasonable calorie levels in their kids’ offerings. So, when you’re looking for a fast-food destination that offers a decent range of options for your little ones, KFC certainly stands out in terms of variety and nutritional consideration.
Crunchy Taco from Taco Bell
One of the healthiest options you can consider at Taco Bell is a combination that includes a crunchy taco, cinnamon twists, and a serving of juice. Surprisingly, this satisfying meal clocks in at less than 400 calories, making it a relatively lighter option compared to other fast food offerings.
By opting for a crunchy taco, you get the satisfaction of the crisp shell combined with flavorful fillings, all while keeping your calorie intake in check. The cinnamon twists provide a touch of sweetness without going overboard, and the inclusion of juice adds a refreshing beverage option that compliments the meal.
So, when you’re looking to satisfy your cravings with a touch of variety and still keep the kids’ meals in a relatively healthy range, Taco Bell presents itself as a surprisingly suitable option.
Don’t Feel Guilty Again with The Fast Food Meals Above
Take charge of your kids’ fast food choices and make healthier options a priority. The next time you find yourself in a time crunch, remember the nutritious alternatives offered by Chick-fil-A, Chipotle, McDonald’s, KFC, and Taco Bell. From grilled nuggets and customizable bowls to chicken nuggets with apple slices, there are options to suit every taste. So, prioritize your children’s health without compromising on convenience with the best fast food for kids. Choose wisely and give them the nourishment they deserve. Your kids will thank you for it!